The most important and best-known characteristic of hyaluronic acid is its ability to bind water. However, it is also capable of much more. Besides cosmetics, hyaluronic acid is most often used in the treatment of joint diseases and in wound healing.
Hyaluronan is one of the two main components of joint fluid, with physical properties similar to rubber. The viscosity of synovial fluid is inversely dependent on the water content. Less water makes it more viscous. This effect is put to work in the joint – pressure on the joint expels water, concentrates the joint solution and thereby lessens the pressure. It also has a significant analgesic (pain-relieving) effect.
Treatment of animals’ joint problems
Hyaluronic acid (also called hyaluronan, sodium hyaluronate or HA) is a polysaccharide occurring commonly in the skin, eyes, joint fluid and cartilage. Its molecule can be thought of as a long chain, whose properties and effect on the body depend on its length (molecular weight). Long chains of hyaluronic acid, because they are endogenous, do not cause inflammatory reactions, and could be considered anti-inflammatory agents. For this reason, since the 1970s it has been used in the treatment of arthritic conditions and other joint diseases in animals (particularly horses and dogs). Initially, injections were applied directly into the affected joint, mainly as a substitute for corticosteroids. A problem was that, in a small but significant percentage of cases, this form of administration caused joint infections or cartilage damage because of the needle. In response, from the 1990s the intravenous administration of hyaluronic acid became increasingly common. Although this method was initially received with scepticism, scientific studies demonstrated the efficacy of intravenous administration. Bonharen became the most significant and most widely used drug of this type.
It came to light only recently that, in response to joint problems, specially modified hyaluronan may also be administered orally. Geloren, a product from the Active Pet Life veterinary range, capitalises on this. It contains Nutrihyl, a highly active substance guaranteeing the maximum effect of hyaluronic acid as it passes through the digestive tract.
Healing of complicated wounds
Hyaluronan’s ability to attract water and promote the natural healing process is mainly used with poorly healing wounds. Hyaluronic acid actively attracts water from tissues surrounding the wound and thus entrains healing precursors into the damaged tissue. This significantly accelerates the entire natural healing process. At the same time, HA influences the deposition of collagen in the skin and thereby reduces the size and extent of scarring. This capability is welcome, especially where it is necessary to maintain the elasticity of the skin after wound healing – this is typically required with fetlock joints.
It is also used with ophthalmological problems or inflammatory diseases of the muscles and tendons of horses.
More information on hyaluronic acid and the ways in which it can be used is available on the website of the world’s leading manufacturer of hyaluronic acid, the Czech company Contipro.